FRI AM News: Trade experts agree engaging with China still preferable; WisBusiness: the Podcast with Rebecca Mitich of Husch Blackwell in Milwaukee

— International trade experts agreed engaging with China is still preferable as the United States and its allies consider how to deal with China’s rise in the global economy. 

“I’d describe it as engagement with eyes wide open, so that we’re not being taken advantage of,” U.S. Rep. Ron Kind said yesterday during a webinar hosted by, and the Wisconsin Technology Council. 

He noted that throughout history, an established global power grappling with the rise of another global power tends to lead to conflict. To avoid that outcome, he called for a “mutual relationship” between the United States and China. 

“Trust but verify, to use President Reagan’s term, but one that doesn’t cut off those avenues of constructive engagement,” said the member of the House Ways and Means Trade subcommittee. “And I think trade is still one of those avenues that can produce some win-win situations for the American consumer, the American producer, but also what China needs today too, so that they don’t view us as just a hostile power trying to thwart whatever they’re trying to accomplish.” 

Prof. Samantha Vortherms, an expert on China at the University of California-Irvine, agreed that “decoupling kind of weakens our stance,” arguing the United States has had more success with “engagement, rather than stepping away.” 

Her research has found few established U.S. firms have been leaving China and returning to the United States amid the trade war. She said “we’re not seeing that decoupling,” adding recent surveys of these companies have found most firms are looking to diversify within China. 

“Because the market is so valuable, that it overcomes the costs that come in from these trade wars,” she said. “Decoupling itself is a very difficult, and in many ways, probably impossible process.” 

Rather than vacating the market, she said many large firms are “sticking it out,” finding cheaper ways to produce in China or passing costs on to consumers. 

Meanwhile, Prof. Enrique Dussel Peters of the National Autonomous University in Mexico called for a more “pragmatic” approach in how the United States interacts with China. He said the U.S. goal of building resilient internal supply chains for critical products is “providing China with very strong arguments” as it develops its own industries. 

“I would invite a more pragmatic, less holistic view, less ideologically tainted,” he said. “But this is not easy.” 

While Kind acknowledged international firms’ hesitancy in leaving the Chinese market, he argued “we also need to, as far as our own national security interests, start distinguishing those vital products that are essential for our national security, let alone our competitiveness.” 

He questioned the wisdom of “allowing the outsourcing of that R&D, product development, manufacturing, to be based in China,” pointing to semiconductors as the prime example. He noted these products are essential for the modern economy, adding the United States has become dependent on other countries for their production. 

But Peters said a decoupling strategy is inherently defensive, arguing the United States “is not necessarily willing to share some of the benefits with the new rich guy in town,” referring to China. 

“Again, a decoupling strategy runs against what the United States has been doing in the last century, since the second World War,” he said. “This is even ideologically, globally from a strategic perspective, very difficult to discuss with other partners, no?” 

Vortherms noted research shows the “souring relations” between the United States and China has increased trade among the rest of the world, diversifying global trade connections outside of that relationship. She expects to see more trade along these lines, pointing to the example of Chinese producers moving to Vietnam to avoid trade restrictions. 

Kind also highlighted his support for the United States rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as China is exploring the possibility of joining the trade agreement. He noted the TPP framework includes structural reforms the United States is already demanding China make, as well as enforceability measures. 

“It would be awfully damn silly for the United States to continue to be on the outside looking in on such a substantial, significant trade agreement in the fastest-growing economic region in the global economy, the Pacific rim area,” he said. 

Watch a video of the discussion here: 

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: the Podcast” is with Rebecca Mitich, a managing partner for Husch Blackwell’s Milwaukee office. 

Mitich was recently named a new office managing partner in Milwaukee, where she focuses on real estate finance and development. She discusses how her background in nonprofit work and education brought her to where she is today. 

“I was doing a ton of grant writing, but then also very interested in service, that I really got through teaching, so I thought law was a good way to combine service and the intellectual rigor that I really loved,” she said. 

She also highlights some of the work she’s most interested in, explaining how “alternative finance” plays a role in development. That includes new markets tax credits, low-income housing tax credits, historic tax credits and more. 

“It’s really rewarding, and at the end of the day, usually the projects that we’re doing are centered around job creation in rural areas, or catalytic developments in underserved communities, or preservation of historic structures,” she said. “It’s a really cool and rewarding thing to do.” 

Mitich also shares her perspective on trends in real estate for 2022 and what business leaders should be paying attention to this year. 

Listen to the podcast here: 

See a full list of podcasts: 

— The U.S. EPA has announced most of the $1 billion in federal infrastructure funding for the Great Lakes will go toward restoring environmentally damaged areas in the region. 

Restoration efforts at 22 of these 25 “Areas of Concern” are estimated to be completed by 2030, according to a release from the federal agency. Funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will directly support clean-up efforts at 11 of the AOCs, the release shows, while funds from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and other sources will support the broader effort. 

AOCs in Wisconsin include the Lower Green Bay and Fox River, Sheboygan River and Harbor, the Milwaukee Estuary and the St. Louis River, the Department of Natural Resources site shows. 

Gov. Tony Evers, who chairs the Council of Great Lakes Governors, says investments through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative will help improve water quality and strengthen coastal communities. 

“Because of our hard work and leadership advocating for Wisconsin communities, we can now announce the advancement of these major remediation projects across our state,” Evers said in the release. “I look forward to continuing our work with the US EPA and the Biden Administration to ensure every Wisconsinite has access to clean water and to protect our Great Lakes.”

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan notes in the release that the Great Lakes provide drinking water for more than 40 million people and support over 1.3 million jobs. 

“Through the investments from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we will make unprecedented progress in our efforts to restore and protect the waters and the communities of the Great Lakes basin,” he said. 

The agency says it will release more details in the coming months on how infrastructure dollars will be used in the Great Lakes region. 

See the release: 

See more on the Great Lakes AOCs: 

— The Assembly has voted 59-35 along party lines to pass a bill limiting a governor’s emergency powers.

Under AB 912, the governor would be prohibited from declaring businesses as “essential” or “nonessential” in emergencies. That means that any order affecting businesses would have to apply to all of them equally.

Early on in the pandemic, Gov. Tony Evers issued a stay-at-home order requiring nonessential businesses to close.

Republicans argued that certain businesses should not be prioritized over others and that the guv’s actions hurt small businesses.

“The vote is green like the money that these small businesses lost,” author Rep. Rob Swearingen, R-Rhinelander said.

Rep. Scott Allen, R-Waukesha, critiqued Evers’ State of the State address as hypocritical. Allen said it was like when “you go into the emergency room and the attending physician pulls out a gun and shoots you and then says, ‘Here, let me help you with your injury.'”

Allen cited research he said showed lockdowns are not effective to control the virus.

Rep. Robyn Vining criticized Allen for using a metaphor evoking gun violence and reminded Allen that representatives are leaders in the state that people look to.

“Words matter,” the Wauwatosa Dem said.

Rep. Tony Kurtz said that if words matter, the governor should not have accused Republicans of causing COVID-19 deaths during the State of the State address.

“You have the audacity to say that words matter — those words matter as well. I took that offensively,” the Wonewoc Republican said.

— The seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases in the state has fallen to 1,493, reaching a level not seen since August 2021, well before the omicron variant was widely circulating. 

The rapid decline in case numbers comes after the seven-day average hit an all-time high of over 18,000 cases in January, when the omicron surge reached its peak in Wisconsin. 

As cases have fallen in the state, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has also decreased dramatically from the recent peak of 2,278 patients in early January. That number has now reached 814, including 161 intensive care patients. The ICU number has also fallen from a peak of 488 patients, the Wisconsin Hospital Association dashboard shows. 

Meanwhile, case activity across much of the state has fallen from “critically high” to “very high,” with only Douglas County in the far north remaining in the highest category for activity. The change comes as mask mandates across the UW System, as well as in Dane County and Milwaukee, are set to expire in the coming weeks. 

In early January, the seven-day average for COVID-19 tests coming back positive reached a peak of 29.5 percent. That number has since fallen to 8.4 percent. While public health officials are shooting for an even lower target, the decline reflects continued improvement in the state’s pandemic outlook. 

The Department of Health Services site shows 63.8 percent of state residents have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 60.1 percent have completed the vaccine series. 

See the latest case numbers here: 

Track hospital figures here: 

— Five organizations in Wausau, Milwaukee, Rhinelander and Beloit are getting a total of $170,850 in grant funding from WEDC for entrepreneurship programs. 

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. announced the funding through the Entrepreneurship Partner Grants program, which requires matching funds from the recipients. 

The Hmong American Center’s Npau Suav (Dream) program, based in Wausau, is getting $50,000 to provide services such as technical assistance, marketing, training and mentoring, and office space. The effort aims to support new startups as well as existing businesses, including those that pivoted due to the pandemic. 

The Greater Milwaukee Committee is getting $40,000 for efforts to establish a “shared platform” for startup ecosystems in Madison and Milwaukee, through a partnership StartingBlock and Work Around. Funding will help support networking events and promotional activities. 

Also in Milwaukee, the Center for Teaching Entrepreneurship is getting a $21,000 grant for its Aspire+Create+Grow, which offers education, mentoring and other support for young entrepreneurs aged 9-24. 

Nicolet College in Rhinelander is getting a $35,000 grant to launch a regional resource map for entrepreneurs highlighting events and “innovation spaces.” 

And Beloit-based Rising Queens will use its $24,850 grant to offer workshops and coaching services for Black-owned small businesses. 

See the release: 


# Report: Too much manure and fertilizer is being spread in some areas at the expense of water quality

# Amazon’s Cottage Grove proposal moves ahead despite resident concerns

# Leisure stays drive Milwaukee hotel occupancy increase



– Wisconsin vegetable growers had a good year in 2021


– UW-Madison CALS seeking nominations for recognition awards

– Marquette receives $1.75 million gift to support Center for Real Estate

– UWM to consolidate, realign some colleges and schools


– Solly’s Grille one of six U.S. restaurants to win 2022 James Beard America’s Classics award

– Solly’s Grille receives 2022 James Beard America’s Classics Award


– Safety panel: Mental health becoming priority as pandemic subsides

– Kenosha nursing home to close, lay off 65 employees

– Bioethics group receives donation from Gundersen Medical Foundation


– Northwestern Mutual revenue up 9% to $34 billion in 2021


– Attorneys, accounting firm meeting on DHS data seized in investigation


– Summit Packaging Systems seeking to expand Racine facility and add 145 jobs

– Mukwonago-based Gearbox Express acquired by Houston tech company

– Racine manufacturer to expand for fifth time, add up to 150 jobs


– Republicans tour Milwaukee for possible convention site

– Evers continues to spearhead plans for budget surplus spending despite Republican opposition

– Report: Milwaukee ’emerges as favorite’ for 2024 RNC


– In absence of federal mandate, many companies still encouraging vaccination for employees

– City of Janesville considers letting builders dump smattering of shingles at landfill


– Kewaskum speedskater Jordan Stolz eyes top six finish in Friday event

– Brown County residents can sign up for Lambeau Field ticket drawing


– Computer, IT services firm NerdsToGo seeking franchisees to open eight locations in Milwaukee


– Milwaukee Public Museum’s 2022 outlook improves sharply while relocation plan progresses


– Bird scooters coming back to Appleton — and more of them, too


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